28 November 2014

Jack Kyle 1926-2014

Jack Kyle who passed away today was the last surviving Ulster player on the team that lifted Ireland's first Grand Slam in 1948. In all the trainee Doctor (pre-1951) and later surgeon made 46 appearances for Ireland from 1946-1958, and appeared 6 times for the British Lions on his only tour with them to Australia and New Zealand in 1950.

As a result of that tour he was named one of the six players of the year in the 1950 New Zealand Rugby Almanac which said  he was "an excellent team man, faultless in his handling, able to send out lengthy and accurate passes, and adept at making play for his supports." In 2002 he was named the Greatest Ever Irish Rugby player, the captain of that team a fellow doctor Karl Mullen was then named the Greatest Captain.

At the time of the 1948 5 Five Nations series he was one of a number of student doctors on the team, he was to graduate from The Queen's University of Belfast in 1951. He at the time without the substitutions we know today he played from his international debut in 1947 for an impressive seven consecutive seasons without injury until he briefly was unable to play in 1954.

After scoring one of his seven international tries in 1953 at Ravenhill one of the journalist immortalised the event in verse.

They seek him here, they seek him thereThose Frenchies seek him everywhere.That paragon of pace and guile,That demned elusive Jackie Kyle.

After he retired from international rugby he embarked on humanitarian work using his medical skills first in Sumatra and Indonesia, then from 1966-2000 as a consultant surgeon in Zambia. Therefore as well as being installed in the IRB Hall of Fame in 2008 he also the year previously received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish Journal of Medical Science and the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

When Ireland won their second Grand Slam on 15 February 2009 Kyle was there to witness the passing of the flame. Seven other men from that original team 61 years earlier where still alive to see the day.

  • Karl Mullen the Leinster hooker survived just a couple of months dying on 29 April 2009
  • Leinster lock Colm Callan lived to see the next 6 nations but passed away 30 May 2010
  • Ulster lock Jimmy Nelson passed away on 13 June 2014 aged 92
  • Munster wing Bertie O'Hanlon turned 90 last month
  • Jim McCarthy the Munster Flanker turned 90 in June
  • Connaught centre Paddy Reid turned 90 in March
  • Leinster centre Mick O'Flanagan turned 92 in September
Other members of that momentous team included Des O'Brien the 1966 Lions manager, Billy McKay a fellow student doctor at Queens, Barney Mullan, John Daly.

Dr Jack Wilson Kyle - Ulster, Ireland and British Lions Rugby 10 January 1923 - 27 November 2014

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